I am all too familiar with the walk to Broad Street Books. Throughout my first year at the University, I made the trek numerous times. Whether I intended to pick up books, splurge on comfy gear, or spend an afternoon at Red and Black, each trip was more or less the same: a straight, monotonous route down William St., colored by the sole purpose of arriving at my final destination.
My most recent walk to Broad Street broke this tedious streak. This past Wednesday, Feb. 5, as I half-walked, half-tripped on the snow, going over the river and through the woods to the promised land of textbooks and Wesleyan apparel galore, I decided for once to stop and smell the roses.
By roses, I of course mean chicken parmesan sandwiches, for on this monumental journey I decided I would stop a block early at Mama’s Italian Market (232 William St). I had never paid much notice to Mama’s. In all honesty, it seemed a rather shady place to me, the kind of restaurant that had skeletons in its back cellar. On Wednesday, though, I was driven, perhaps by the palpable force of class-induced hunger and exhaustion, to abandon these conceptions and buy myself a sandwich.
Mama’s Italian Market is by no means a luxurious eatery. But upon entering, I was pleased to find that the various foods on display looked nothing short of delicious. It also didn’t take me long to discover that the women running the show have the customer service game down to a science. As I approached the counter and gave my order, I was greeted with warm smiles and addressed with sweet endearments like “honey.” This ambience immediately put me at ease. Even though the sandwich took much longer than necessary—I was practically the only customer in the shop at that point—I didn’t grow impatient or irritable. Instead, I felt comfortable, content to wait for my meal and observe the charming employee interactions that are characteristic of a family business.
The food itself also made the wait worthwhile. The bread was everything Italian bread should be: hearty, crusty, and delicious. The ingredients nestled inside the sandwich were in complete harmony: an ideal balance of sweet peppers, tomato sauce, provolone cheese, and chicken cutlet. I don’t know whether my dining experience was affected more by my ravenous hunger or the quality of the dish, but in the moment, the sub was flawless. It made my mouth water upon first sight and smell; upon first taste, it transported me into foodie heaven.
So the next time you’re on your way to Broad Street Books and want to put a rest to your growling stomach, give Mama’s a try. It might not be Grandma’s home kitchen, but it is a quick and satisfying solution to a sudden comfort food craving.